16th Street Baptist Church Bombing victims to be honored - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

16th Street Baptist Church Bombing victims to be honored

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Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell announced today that the little girls who were killed in the 16th street bombings are closer to receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.

Sewell announced that over 290 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed onto H.R. 360 – the resolution to request that the United States Congress bestow its highest civilian honor of the Congressional Gold Medal – to Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair. They tragically lost their lives during the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963.

The bill will be considered in the House Financial Services Committee before being scheduled for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives in the near future.

The bill was introduced on January 23rd by Sewell and Congressman Spencer Bachus (AL). The rest of the entire Alabama delegation joined as original co-sponsors along with Alabama natives Rep. John Lewis (GA) and Sanford Bishop (GA).

The Senate companion bill, S.186, was introduced on January 30th and sponsored by Senator Richard Shelby and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. They are currently working to secure the necessary two-thirds majority needed to pass the Senate.

The purpose of the bipartisan congressional effort is to recognize during this year of the 50th commemoration, the significant role the city of Birmingham played in the Civil Rights Movement, which changed the nation and impacted the world.

"I am excited that we were able to garner such overwhelming bipartisan support for this bill.  I want to especially thank Congressman Spencer Bachus and my other Alabama congressional colleagues for all of their hard work in securing the co sponsorships.  And  I look forward to passing this legislation on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass it in the upper chamber," said Rep. Sewell.

"It is significant how deep the bipartisan support is for awarding this high honor to four lovely and innocent young girls whose legacy led to permanent change for the better in Alabama and our society.  From our vantage point 50 years later, we see clearly how an act of evil done at a House of God in downtown Birmingham stirred the consciences of decent people everywhere and resulted in landmark civil rights achievements.  It is altogether fitting to authorize a Congressional Gold Medal to recognize the historic importance of the lives and legacy of these four girls, and it is a pleasure to work cooperatively on this legislation with Congresswoman Sewell," said Rep. Bachus.

"The four little girls are emblematic of many who have lost their lives for the cause of freedom: Medgar Evers, Emmett Till, Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner as well as Virgil Ware and James Johnny Robinson who were killed within hours of the church bombing. Over the course of this year 2013, as we commemorate Birmingham's role in history, we must make every effort to remember and recognize not just these four little girls but all those who have suffered and sacrificed so that Birmingham, Alabama and this nation could uphold its ideals of equality and justice for all," added Rep. Sewell.

The history of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing:

On September 15, 1963, amid high racial tensions, a bomb detonated in the 16th Street Baptist Church as children were entering the basement on their way to worship.  Addie Mae Collins, Caroline Robinson, and Cynthia Wesley, who were all 14, and Denise McNair, 11, were killed.  The explosion injured 22 people and left heavy damage to the church itself.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled to Birmingham to deliver the eulogy for the children and the bombing, which shocked Americans across the nation, and became a galvanizing force for the passage of historic civil rights legislation including the Voting Rights Act of 1964.     

The history of the Congressional Gold Medal:
The presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal requires the support of a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate and the signature of the President.  The requirements for a Congressional Gold Medal are set in statute by the rules of the Financial Services Committee, where Congressman Bachus serves as Chairman Emeritus and Congresswoman Sewell serves as a member, and by the House.

Individuals and groups in civil rights history who have been Congressional Gold Medal recipients include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Dr. Dorothy Height, Rosa Parks, the Little Rock Nine, Jackie Robinson, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the Montford Point Marines.

For more on the 50th commemoration of Birmingham's Civil Rights movement, go to 50yearsforward.com

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